Life-size photograph from late nineteenth or early twentieth century

Condition Assessment and Treatment Record

A Life -size photograph print that came for treatment to our lab could not be taken inside immediately at its arrival, as it had live termite all over it. All the life stages of a termite could be seen on the huge framed photograph.

It was extremely difficult to control the flying termites that were all over our heads. The back looked neat, but as soon as the ply was detached we could see tunnels of powdered wood and fast crawling termite population.

Apart from termite, the back(ply) was also heavily infested with fungus, from inside, where it was in contact with the photograph.

The problems were very complex and interrelated. The paper support of the image/photograph had stubborn creases that were difficult to flatten, because of more than one reasons:

  1. The paper has lost its flexibility to a great extent because of natural ageing and backing of ply wood
  2. Insect attack
  3. Creases have been in that state since years
  4. The paper was pasted on a cloth backing
  5. The technique and adhesive material used to give cloth backing
  6. Surface eaten and abraded by insects
  7. Acidity

Diagnosis      

We studied the photograph under digital microscope and under various lights like UV light and raking light (this is normal light falling from an angle) and light from the back.

Normal visual examination was enough to show some deteriorating factors like stains and creases due to water damage.

Deteriorating Factors

Damages are mainly due to:

  1. Water/moisture,
  2. Termite population,
  3. Fungus/mold
  4. Adhesive used to put a cloth backing.
  5. Ageing

Damages

  1. Loss of image material laid on paper support because of the termite population feeding on it
  2. Loss of paper support itself as it is completely eaten by the termite.
  3. Tears
  4. Stains
  5. Tide-lines
  6. Creases
  7. Tears

Treatment performed

  1. Controlling termite population and discarding all the wooden elements of the frame housing termite colonies.
  2. Dry cleaning with soft brush and eraser crumbs
  3. Tests to check the solubility of image material
  4. A facing of Japanese tissue paper was provided
  5. Removing old backing of cloth
  6. Removed the left adhesive and paper layer.
  7. Wet cleaning to remove acidity and stubborn creases
  8. Reducing the tide-lines and stains
  9. Removal of temporary facing applied
  10. Slow humidification followed by slow drying for flattening of the paper
  11. Tear mending and filling lost area wherever necessary
  12. Providing backing with Japanese tissue paper and CMC.
  13. Filling of lost areas and in-painting to match the saved original photograph
  14. Framing
  1. Controlling termite population and discarding all the wooden elements of the frame housing termite colonies.
  2. Dry cleaning with soft brush and eraser crumbs

Dry Cleaning is a process aimed at removing the dust from the surface of paper by soft brushes and by gently rubbing the conservation grade eraser crumbs onto the dirty areas as well as the entire document in gentle circular motion. 

3. Tests to check the solubility of image material

Ink solubility tests are essential to decide the course of further treatment. The ink was tested for solubility in ethanol and water based on which further treatment was proposed.

4. A facing of Japanese tissue paper was provided

5. Removing old backing of cloth

The adhesive in the old backing tends to get acidic with time causing damage to the paper causing a bright brown stain and often causing the affected area to get very brittle. The solubility of the adhesive was tested and then treated to lighten the stains and completely remove the adhesive residue from the affected area.

6. Removal of left over adhesive and paper layer

7. Wet cleaning to remove acidity and stubborn creases

When the archival material is first sprayed and then submerged in a ethanol-water solution specially prepared to control the wetting nature of water, the acidity present in the paper slowly gets dissolved into the solution and exits the paper.

8. Reducing the tide-lines and stains

Tide-lines are caused due to the capillary action of moisture in the paper that carries the acidity and accumulated dirt further, causing a stain. The process was carried out manually with skill and persistent patience for best results.

9. Slow humidification followed by slow drying for flattening of the paper support

10. Tear mending and filling lost area wherever necessary

The tears in the photograph were fixed from the back using conservation grade Japanese tissue paper and a cellulose based paste for adhesion. This process is completely reversible and harmless to the paper.

11. Flattening

The photograph under treatment was humidified carefully and subjected to pressure for drying and flattening hence getting rid of the stubborn creases.

12. New backing of thin Japanese tissue paper

The photograph was given backing with Japanese tissue paper.

13. Filling of lost areas and in-painting to match the saved original photograph

14. Framing

During framing it was ensured that whatever materials that the photograph comes in contact with are of conservation grade and acid free.

Before and after treatment of the photograph

Team Heritage Preservation Atelier

  • Namita Jaspal
  • Jiinie Wong
  • Manit Jaspal
  • Sarika Rawat

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